Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Even Harvard Urges Eating Organic

Besides air, water and shelter, the fourth basic human essential is food. For centuries, the biggest challenges were getting enough of it and obtaining the nutrients necessary from it to maintain health.

Today, the world is faced with a food conundrum that may have been unforeseen a century ago. It stems from the fact that crops for human consumption aren’t grown for optimal health as much as they are to be more easily produced. The term “pesticide” encompasses insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides.

Recently, experts from several countries were asked to review the possible health advantages of organic food and farming practices when the European Parliament commissioned Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to prepare a report outlining possible benefits.

Researchers used in vitro and animal studies, epidemiological studies and food crop analyses to determine that the most pressing concern regarding conventionally grown food is the use of pesticides, which are still detectable even after being washed. In comparison, organic foods are generally pesticide-free.

Are Pesticide Residues on Produce Safe?

While authorities in both the European Union (EU) and the U.S. are adamant that the pesticides on produce, as well as the amounts used, are perfectly safe, the limits were based on animal studies, and scrutinized one pesticide at a time rather than cumulative amounts of several types. One reason that’s a problem, the report asserted, is because:

“The human brain is so much more complex than the rat brain, and our brain development is much more vulnerable because there are so many processes that have to happen at the right time and in the right sequence — you can’t go back and do them over.”1

The subsequent report also highlighted the dangers of antibiotics usage in farm animals, concluding:

“The prevalent use of antibiotics in conventional animal production is a key driver of antibiotic resistance. The prevention of animal disease and more restrictive use of antibiotics, as practiced in organic production, could minimize this risk, with potentially considerable benefits for public health.”2

Three Studies Confirm: ‘Pesticides Are Harming Children’s Brains’

The upshot of three long-term U.S.-based birth cohort studies was that pesticides are wreaking irreversible havoc on children’s brains.

Urine samples revealed that women’s exposure to pesticides during pregnancy can be linked to lower IQ, neurobehavioral development problems and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in their children.3

Magnetic resonance imaging also showed altered brain structure. In fact, the higher their mothers’ exposure to organophosphates, a common pesticide first developed as nerve gas during World War II, the thinner their children’s grey matter.

While some scientists say evidence on the negative impacts of pesticides on the developing brain is incomplete, the report made one thing clear: Pregnant or breastfeeding women or those planning to become pregnant, “may wish to eat organic foods as a precautionary measure because of the significant and possibly irreversible consequences for children’s health.”4

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